If you live in a rural area or spend a lot of time outdoors, you might be more aware of the presence of poisonous plants. These plants can be dangerous for several reasons—not only are some of them extremely toxic, but many of them look almost identical to non-poisonous species. If you aren’t properly trained to identify these plants, you could make an unsafe mistake and end up getting hurt as a result.
Thankfully, there are certain precautions you can take to avoid coming into contact with these dangerous plants. Keeping the information in this article handy will help keep you safe from poison ivy, oak and other poisonous plants that lurk in unexpected places.
What Is a Poisonous Plant?
A poisonous plant is any plant that contains chemicals that can be harmful to the human body. There are a variety of reasons why a plant might become poisonous, including the presence of naturally occurring chemicals in the soil the plant grows in or a result of an insect infestation or disease affecting the plant. While the most dangerous plants can kill you with only a small amount of contact, most of the time, poisonous plants will only cause mild symptoms like skin irritation or nausea.
Plants like poison ivy, however, are capable of causing serious reactions and are one of the most recognizable plants on this list. Some plants can be dangerous if consumed, like poisonous berries or leaves. Children may be more at risk of accidentally eating a poisonous plant since their curiosity can get the best of them. If a child ingests a poisonous plant, their risk of complications and death is much higher than an adult.
How to Avoid Coming Into Contact with Poisonous Plants
The best way to avoid coming into contact with any plants is to stay away from all plants. However, that’s not a very realistic suggestion. If you have to venture outside, there are certain precautions you can follow to reduce your risk of coming into contact with a poisonous plant.
First and foremost, always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for any plants that look suspicious.
Furthermore, if you have to go into areas where poisonous plants are common, wear long pants and long sleeves to reduce your risk of exposure to the oils on the outside of the plant’s leaves. If you have a long, outdoor adventure ahead of you, it’s a good idea to bring a pair of gloves and a pair of thick, durable shoes as an extra precaution against coming into contact with any harmful plants.
Deadly and Highly Toxic Plants
There are many types of plants that can be deadly if you come into contact with them, but only a few of them are so toxic that they can kill you with only one small contact. This is why it’s so important to know the signs of toxic plants so you can avoid them at all costs.
Poison Oak – One of the most recognizable toxic plants, poison oak is native to many parts of North America. The leaves and stems of this plant are covered in a sticky, oily sap that can cause a severe rash on any exposed skin. Once you’ve come into contact with this plant, the rash-causing chemicals can remain on your skin for up to 14 days.
Red Cedar – Another common toxic plant with a wide range, red cedar grows in the eastern parts of the United States and Canada. This plant’s leaves, twigs, and bark are all highly toxic and can cause an allergic reaction in some people. The allergic reaction, called contact dermatitis, results in a rash on the skin that can blister in extreme cases.
Oleander – A common landscaping plant in many parts of the world, oleander is extremely toxic and can cause death if ingested in large amounts. The toxic nature of this plant comes from its milky, white sap, which can cause symptoms like vomiting, blurred vision, numbness, and paralysis if it comes into contact with your skin.
Deathbell – A flowering plant that grows in Northern and Central Europe, the deathbell is extremely toxic. If the plant is ingested, it can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, paralysis, heart arrhythmia, and even death in extreme cases.
Potential Health Risks of Touching These Plants
Besides the risk of death, there are a variety of other health risks associated with touching poisonous plants. In most cases, a person who comes into contact with a poisonous plant will experience a rash, itchiness, or some other skin irritation.
However, in rare cases, the toxic chemicals from poisonous plants can enter your bloodstream and cause more serious issues. If you’ve come into contact with a toxic plant and you begin to suffer from symptoms like blurry vision, nausea, dizziness, or numbness, the best thing you can do is wash your skin with soap and cold water as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to pour some milk or an acidic substance like lemon juice into the affected area to neutralize the chemicals on your skin.
If you have any of the following symptoms, it’s best to visit a doctor to determine if the toxicity has entered your bloodstream:
- Unusual fatigue
- Changes in your heart rate
- Changes in your blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Changes in your blood count
Even More Dangerous Plants to Stay Away From
While most of the above plants can be deadly if you come into contact with them, certain species are even more toxic than the rest. There are very few of these plants, but it’s best to avoid all of them completely.
Hydnora Africana – This flowering shrub is native to the deserts of Northern Africa. All parts of the plant are toxic, and it’s been reported to have caused death in humans as young as one year old. It’s best to avoid this plant at all costs, even if you’re on a different continent.
Castor Bean Plant – A flowering plant that grows in tropical and subtropical regions, the castor bean plant is extremely toxic. All parts of the plant are poisonous, including the leaves, flowers, and roots. The seeds are the most dangerous part of this plant, though. If consumed, these seeds can lead to paralysis and death within 36 hours. It’s best to keep an eye out for this plant if you live in a warm climate.
Kinds of Plants That Are Only Slightly Toxic
Some plants are toxic, but only if you ingest them and only in large amounts. This means it’s unlikely that you’ll come into contact with these plants and experience any serious side effects. The following plants can cause side effects if you consume them in large amounts, but they’re not extremely toxic like the plants above. Avoid eating large amounts of these plants, but they’re unlikely to cause serious harm if you consume them by accident.
Castor Oil Plant – The castor oil plant is commonly used in natural remedies due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Like the castor bean plant, the castor oil plant is only toxic if you ingest it. Once ingested, the plant can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Comfrey – Comfrey is a flowering plant that’s known for its soft leaves. While comfrey is mildly toxic if consumed, it’s typically used as a topical treatment for sprains and other injuries.
Poisonous plants are a very real threat to many people, especially those who love to spend time outdoors. However, most of these plants are easy to avoid if you are aware of their presence and learn how to identify them.